Divorce & Custody
For Divorce, Separation, and Custody Issues,
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Contrary to popular notions, most divorce attorneys do their best to help couples reach fair agreements and avoid costly contests. An attorney may represent only one party, however, and must have the best interests of that client in mind at all times. If the divorce goes to court, it is unwise for one side to have no attorney. Even if you plan to conduct your divorce yourself, a consultation with an attorney can help you understand longer-term financial and planning issues you may not think of on your own.
Divorce and Separation in
Divorce is the dissolution of the legal contract of marriage. Judicial separation is a legal decision regarding responsibilities when parties live separately but remain married. In
Child support, spousal support, parental rights, and the division of property are important legal issues in divorce cases. The amount paid for child support is computed with a complex legal formula.
Legal Terms and Issues Related to Divorce and Separation
Divorce Complaint – This is the initial form submitted to the court by the person initiating the divorce.
Service – This is the legal term for having the Divorce Complaint delivered to the other spouse. It may be done by mail or in person by an authorized server, such as a sheriff; or by publication if the other person cannot be found. There are small fees associated with having papers served.
Entry and Appearance – This is the name of the formal written response required from the served spouse to the court acknowledging that he/she has received the divorce complaint.
Answer and Counterclaim – This is a longer version of the Entry and Appearance which allows the second spouse to continue the divorce action the first started, if the first spouse drops it at some point.
Affidavit – This is a written statement of fact that you swear is true, signed by you and by a state-authorized “notary public,” most often an attorney or court clerk. In divorce proceedings affidavits are required for information regarding income, property, and expenses so that the court can make decisions regarding property division, spousal support, and child support.
Uncontested Hearing – If both spouses come to an agreement through mediation, the hearing before the judge is called “uncontested,” and is usually brief. During this hearing, the judge or magistrate will review the agreements to make sure they are understood and accepted by both sides before being entered as the final decree.
Interim Hearing – This is a formal hearing in court before a judge during which time both spouses may present arguments, evidence, and witnesses, to help decide how financial and parental affairs should be handled during the time the divorce is being negotiated or tried.
Interim Order – The decisions the judge makes from the arguments and evidence heard at the Interim Hearing become a temporary, or “interim” order that tells each spouse what he/she will be responsible for with regard to finances and child support and care.
Marital Property – Property that belongs to both spouses, including (with some exceptions) property acquired by one spouse during the marriage, is part of what the court will divide up in the final divorce decree.
Non-Marital Property – Property that one spouse owned before the marriage; or received during the marriage as a gift or inheritance, remains with the owner, and it does not have to be considered in property division.
Spousal Support – Previously referred to as “alimony,” this is the amount of money the court may order one spouse to pay another for some period of time. Spousal support must be settled at the time of the initial divorce: unlike child support, which may be adjusted over the years as circumstances change, spousal support is set at the time of the divorce and may not be renegotiated later.
Parental Rights and Responsibilities – Commonly thought of as “custody and support,” Maine courts decree where children shall live, how continued contact with the other parent will be allowed, who will have authority to make decisions, and what financial responsibilities each parent will have toward their care. Any of these decisions can be revisited at any time through a court process called “modification” of the divorce decree.
Final Order – This is the final ruling of the court regarding the divorce and all issues related to it.
Divorce is as complex as marriage.
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